*To avert industrial crisis, step brain drain
The Federal government has pledged proactive measures to forestall strikes by doctors and other health workers by reviewing the salary structures of medical doctors, under the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and Consolidated Health Salary Structure.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, gave the hint when he hosted a delegation of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in Abuja on Friday.
The NMA was led by its President, Dr. Uche Ojinmah; Secretary, Jude Onyekwere, as well as the President of Nigerian Association Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA), Nosa Orhue, among others.
During the meeting, the NMA president listed the challenges facing doctors in Nigeria, especially the review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS).
In a statement by the Deputy Director of Press and Public Relations, Olajide Osundun, the NMA president said: “It is sad to tell you that the most pressing challenge facing Nigerian doctors is the review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, which has been overdue by eight years. We wrote to our parent Ministry of Health on June 5, 2022, seeking a meeting, just as other previous national officers of NMA have written since 2014 for the same issue and without result.
“Recall that it is the 2009 Agreement that yielded CONMESS and we agreed with government that it would be reviewed in five years and that five years was up in 2014, and this 2022. Nothing has been done about this. We wrote in June to the Ministry of Health to ask for discussion over this. The meetings they convened were all structured to fail.”
The NMA president regretted the inability of the officials of the Ministry of Health to resolve the lingering issue.
He urged Ngige to take over the matter and ensure its speedy resolution before the General Assembly of the NMA scheduled for December 11, 2022.
Praising the minister for the registration of the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA), which he said “has come to stay and heartily welcome by the NMA,” the union leader also urged the minister to help maintain industrial harmony in essential services where the NMA has jurisdiction.
“It will be highly appreciated if immediate and urgent actions are expedited by your ministry in addressing the concerns of the members of the NMA and her affiliates, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) as well as the out of court resolution of the dispute between Medical and Dental Doctors in Academics and the Salaries, Income and Wages Commission,” the statement said.
Ngige noted that despite the prevailing economic challenges facing the nation, the Federal government remains committed to, not just the review of CONMESS, but also CONHESS, to ensure stability in the health system.
The minister said the trajectory informed his insistence during the recent negotiation with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) SSANU and NASU that any salary review that does not recognise agitations from other sector unions drawing from the Federal treasury might be counter-productive.
He assured the NMA that the ministry would liaise with its health counterpart to take over the matter and ensure an early resolution.
Ngige reminded the NMA about the consequences of the ministry taking over conciliation of the matter.
“The bad shape of the economy does not mean the doctors or other health professionals should not earn decent wages that can really take them home so they can take care of their needs as medical practitioners.
“Therefore, CONMESS and CONHESS, to me, should be reviewed. I have done a letter to the Ministry of Health. I have also noted in that instance that we don’t need to have a trade dispute notice before we do the review of these salary structures.
“So, please exercise restraint while this is resolved. My ministry will do the needful. We are already taking proactive measures to forestall any strike.
“But I hope we are all aware that once my ministry takes over the matter for conciliation, part of the encumbrances is that you won’t go on strike anymore because the matter has been apprehended in line with Section 18 of the Trade Disputes Act. I have no doubt doctors are noble men and would abide by this. We as doctors must obey the labour laws.
“Of course, we know too that Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act on ‘No Work, No Pay’ is very active now. It was not made by President Buhari or by his minister. It is the law of the federation enacted in 2004,” Ngige said.